A cornucopia of fire starters!
I came home to a cold, cold house yesterday. I had a good fire the day before. I’d kept it going all day. I was proud! I never let it go out. I was tending a fire instead of constantly re-starting one. I need to practice banking the fire so it doesn’t go out when I’m gone for hours. I took the kids to the city for dentist appointments and was gone for four hours. The coals were still hot when I left, but I was in such a rush, I didn’t bank it properly. That won’t feel so good when it’s zero degrees, will it? (Next project: proper banking! And not being in such a hurry…)
Starting fires has been a big project up to now. All the kindling! And the paper! Starting and re-starting. While I’ve gotten good at keeping a fire going once it’s started, the starting has remained an issue. I took all your advice to heart and decided to hold an experiment in homemade fire starters yesterday.
I have plenty of egg cartons. (For now.)
And a good many of them are cardboard cartons. I saved and saved and saved egg cartons last year. You know, for my abundance of eggs! From my 40 chickens! I needed to have plenty of egg cartons ready to give eggs to Georgia and who knows who else. Anyone I could pawn them off on because you know I was going to have TONS of eggs.
….beautiful chickens. I’ll be lucky if I see another egg before spring.
I also have a great big bag of pine cones. Georgia has huge pines all around her house. I have an unlimited supply of pine cones.
And I always have wax. Free or nearly free wax, from recycling candles.
You can also get free wax by letting friends and family know you want wax. You’d be surprised by how many people have candles sitting around that they have no intention of using and they’re happy to hand them over for a useful purpose. You can also buy cheap cheap cheap votive sets–cheaper than you could buy the wax, dye, and scent separately. If worse comes to worst, you can actually buy wax or paraffin for your fire starters. But check around first for frugal alternatives.
Votives are really easy to re-purpose. Just peel the label off the bottom then pull the metal tab and wick out.
(Save the wicks and tabs! You may have a candle project for them later.)
Place the votives in your melting pot.
Melt wax safely. Read here for more detailed instructions on melting wax. You can see see all my posts about candle-making here.
I decided to make a few different types of fire starters based on the suggestions in the comments on this post so I could discover what I liked best and what worked for me. The fire starter ideas I tried were:
1) dryer lint and wax in cardboard egg carton cups
2) dryer lint and wax in toilet paper/paper towel tubes
3) pine cones with wax
I think you could also put dryer lint on pine cones then drizzle them with wax, too, but I was low on dryer lint. (A project for the coming year is going to be to collect dryer lint–all year!) I just had the dryer lint from the dryer right now.
I put dryer lint in four of the cups of a cardboard egg carton.
Then poured a small amount of melted wax over the cups.
I didn’t use much wax because I wanted to, in the next step of my fire starter testing, place the pine cones on top of the cardboard cups while I poured wax over the pine cones. That way, the excess wax would go into the cardboard cups. I put strips of orange peel on the pine cones and poured the wax over the cones as they sat above the cardboard cups.
The wax attached the strips of orange peel to the cones. I wanted the extra fun of the orange scent directly on the cones.
Next, I toyed with a toilet paper tube. I couldn’t quite figure out how this was going to work. I didn’t want the wax to pour right through the lint to the bottom of the tube and out, so I did a sort of sloppy rendition of how I make bottoms in toilet paper tubes when I make biodegradable seed starter pots. (And if you aren’t saving toilet paper and paper towel tubes right now for fire starters, you should be saving them for seed starter pots! The time to be saving them for spring is now!)
I stuffed my meager supply of lint into the tube.
Then poured wax in there. The wax still went out the bottom so I finished pouring it over the cardboard egg carton cups.
I have a lot of dried apple slices and peels in the freezer so I decided to stick a dried apple peel on top of each cup and adhere it with wax.
This was a last-minute idea. If I was going to make these for gifts, I’d probably stick a couple of apple slices/peels into the wax in a more creative way. I think it’s a neat idea to add some scent, especially for gift-giving. I’m pretty loose with my fruit peels because I saved so many this summer. (Save your fruit peelings and cores! So many uses….)
The pine cones with orange peels would also make great gifts for anyone with a wood stove. Throw in extra orange peels and old cinnamon sticks for more scent and just to be pretty.
And now! Time for the rubber to hit the road. I was ready to make fire.
I collected kindling. I made a teenager haul wood up to the house. (Yes, I’m learning!) I fought off Boomer while he tried to run off with my kindling. I stacked kindling and light wood. I balled up newspaper. I tucked fire starters in amongst the kindling and the newspaper. My test wood stove was prepared for ignition! (I probably used more fire starters than necessary, but I was testing them all out. More power!)
I’ve never started a fire so easily before. It started up like magic. The fire starters kept going long enough for the fire to really take hold in the kindling, and then the wood. Unlike every other time I’ve started a fire, I didn’t have to keep balling up newspaper and lighting it over and over.
And it didn’t go out. The fire took hold and it didn’t stop.
I want to say this for the girls out there–you know who you are, girls like me who “can’t” start fires. Make fire starters. We know the tricks men use to start fires. (Don’t need to explain. You all know what I’m talking about!) That’s too scary for us. We don’t like that. Girls, make some fire starters! They’re pretty and they smell good and they aren’t scary.
Oh–and which type of fire starters did I like best? For absolute ease, nothing beats the cardboard egg carton cups of dryer lint and wax. However, for me, I will most likely make more of the pine cones with wax because I have an unlimited supply of pine cones and a limited supply of cardboard egg cartons. (Though I will start asking people to give me their old cardboard egg cartons and keep up what supply I can.) Since I can acquire dryer lint on a regular basis, I’ll probably try drizzling wax over dryer lint on the pine cones. I liked least the toilet paper/paper towel tubes. They were just more difficult to work with. All three methods worked great, though, when it came to making flames.
I have fire!
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